Whenever, wherever: The future of work beyond hybrid

Gary Cookson, Director of EPIC HR, discusses what organisations need to consider to make hybrid working a success.
By: | April 20, 2022

Few organisations fully understood how remote working changed the nature of a team, and changed the role of their leaders, as the pandemic hit. The retention of remote working and its integration into a hybrid model is the same, so we have a good and timely opportunity to look again at all of this.

Leaders need to focus more on different things – feedback, recognition, wellbeing, and managing outcomes in different ways. What it means to work remotely vs in a physical workplace needs consideration in terms of which tasks are done where, so we will need to look at ways to help leaders with this thinking.

Teams themselves are different too. Team relationships have been reset during the pandemic and will be reset again when hybrid working commences. This is a golden opportunity to reform the way work is done, the way decisions are made, the way problems are resolved and the way that people communicate with each other. We need to look at a framework to help teams with this.

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“This is a golden opportunity to reform the way work is done, the way decisions are made, the way problems are resolved and the way that people communicate with each other.” – Gary Cookson, Director of EPIC HR.

The phrase “the new normal” can divide opinion – some feel it describes our situation well, but others have tired of it and consider it a cliché. The pandemic brought with it some significant, long-term changes to the way we live and work and therefore to the way people professionals need to act. The ways of working we adopted in a hurry in March 2020 are largely still with us – people working remotely, people working in a hybrid way, and other people still working where they always used to. The world created then is mostly still the reality for many and will continue to be.

It is one that has both significant advantages and disadvantages in perhaps equal measure. But the enforced nature of it during 2020 for most employees meant that many of these advantages were experienced alongside the disadvantages. However, it forced many individuals and their organisations to confront some previous, longstanding and wrongly held, “truths” about the nature of work.

One of the main lessons learnt during the pandemic was that the switch to remote working was not as simple as virtually replicating what happened in the office. We can, therefore, safely say that hybrid working is not about trying to somehow merge the remote and face- to-face worlds of work, despite what the label may suggest. It is about something different, more conscious, and deliberate, something that changes both remote and face-to-face experiences of work into something greater than the sum of its parts, something better than either are individually.

In years gone by, remote working was about quiet time, focused time, time to get stuff done without interruption, without meetings. For remote work to be effective this is what it needs to largely return to. This, then, changes what the physical office needs to be – it can no longer be about doing individual work sat at one location and often not interacting with others. The physical workplace becomes a place for collaboration, for communication, for those often-mentioned watercooler moments of inspiration.

If our organisations adopt hybrid working, we need to be really clear what we mean by that. Is it work from anywhere, any time or is it set days a week at home? Is it something that applies to ALL employees or something that only applies to some? As people professionals, we are well-placed to help the organisation and its leaders answer these questions and no doubt many have, but many others will be struggling with it.

People do need some level of face-to-face interaction and in many cases crave it. Full-time remote working appears something that is not attractive to many people at all, and so our people practices have to be able to operate across the different types of working situations we will face in the future – fully remote, fully face to face, and hybrid. Join me at HR Tech Festival Asia 2022, where I will examine what this means for us.

Join Gary Cookson, Director of EPIC HR, at HR Tech Festival Asia 2022, where he will be presenting a session titled, Whenever, Wherever – The Future Of Work Beyond Hybrid, on Wednesday, May 11, from 2.30pm-3pm (SGT).